INDIANAPOLIS - Lewis pitcher Kelly Bowler attacked two groups with vengeance on Friday (May 10) in an NCAA Division II softball playoff game.
First, she exterminated a good portion of the worm population at Baumgartner Field at the University of Indianapolis. At the same time, she killed any hope the Ashland University Eagles had of winning this tournament opener.
Bowler got 14 outs via ground balls – those are sometimes referred to as "worm burners" - and she limited the Eagles to a pair of singles as Lewis blanked the Eagles, 5-0. One more loss will eliminate the Eagles from this tournament. Saturday (May 11, 12:30 p.m.), Ashland (27-19) will meet Wayne State in an elimination game. On Friday, WSU lost to Indianapolis, 5-1
Bowler (18-8) retired the first 11 batters she faced. AU's first hit was an infield single by designated player Jen Moore (Jeromesville, Ohio/Hillsdale). Ashland's other hit was a single to right field by second baseman Cayla Seidler (Massillon, Ohio/Massillon Washington) in the seventh inning. Seidler was promptly erased on a double play, Moore grounding out to shortstop Michelle Vucsko, who started the twin killing.
"She pitched a great game," said AU head coach Sheilah Gulas of Bowler. "She kept the ball down in the zone and that's all we could do. She didn't dominate us, but we hit it right where she wanted us to hit it."
"We didn't make anything happen," continued Gulas. "They did what they wanted to do. We were on the defensive all day."
"She kept it low and we didn't make adjustments," said catcher Tawna Garver (Mansfield, Ohio/Hillsdale).
The Flyers (31-16) gave Bowler all the run support she would need in the first inning. Speedy center fielder Jayme Hefler led off the bottom of the first inning by reaching first base on an error by shortstop Jamie Weber (Orient, Ohio/Teays Valley). A sacrifice bunt moved her to second. With two outs, right fielder Lauren Hanford singled to left field to get Hefler to third. She continued home when left fielder Carly West's (Ashland, Ohio/Hillsdale) throw went up the line and then skipped away in foul territory.
Hefler was a problem for AU all day. She was 2-for-4 with a double and scored twice. She picked up her 26th stolen base of the season. The Eagles were fearful of her speed entering this game and Hefler more than lived up to the scouting report.
"She showed some power to go with that speed," noted Gulas. "That first inning we gave them a run, but that's all they needed."
Lewis increased its lead to 3-0 in the third inning. Hefler led off with a double to left field, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Ali Brems and scored on Hanford's two-out double to right. Hanford came around to score on a Vucsko single.
In the fourth inning, catcher Kimmy Teats led off with a single and third baseman Jessica Rourke, hitting eighth in the order, clubbed a homer that cleared the left-field wall.
Rourke's homer came off of Sara Alley (Milford, Ohio). Teats and Rourke were the first two batters Alley faced. Starter and loser Amber McDermott (Creston, Ohio/Norwayne) pitched the first three innings and gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits. Alley ended up permitting two runs on three hits in three innings. McDermott is 11-6.
"They hit the ball hard," admitted Garver. "Our location was decent, but we didn't keep the ball down."
The Eagles have very little margin of error now. One more loss and their season is over. On Saturday, AU goes against a WSU team that won the GLIAC tournament title last weekend.
"The nice thing about softball in the NCAA tournament is you don't lose a game and go home," reminded Gulas. "I told the girls, last week Wayne State lost their first game and then won six in a row. We have to come out and play better than we did today."